When booking accommodation online, don’t accept the first rate you find as the best deal. Always compare rates using sites such as Tripadvisor as well as the hotel website directly. Sometimes the hotel website will offer exclusive discounts if you book with them directly (for example, stay the third night free or a 25% discount on early-bird bookings). For those travelling to the United States for holidays, make full use of your motoring association membership. If you are a current member of the NRMA, RACQ, RACV etc, check for AAA hotel rates, as your motoring association membership may entitle you to these discounted rates. Depending on the hotel chain, you can save upwards of 20% on the hotel rate. To confirm whether your motoring association membership offers AAA privileges, check the back of your membership card as it will display the AAA logo if it does. And don’t forget to take your card with you!
If travelling with a large family, staying at Airbnb properties is also a great way to save money. Benefits can include car parking, laundry and kitchen facilities, which can help save money, especially if you're travelling for an extended period.
Coupons and promotion codes
Whether you’re booking tickets for a show, an attraction or hotel accommodation, always scour the Internet for promotion or coupon codes - if there is an option to enter one when you’re about to finalise a transaction. Your search may also reveal other special discounts through websites such as Groupon. For example, a recent search for tickets to Houston’s Space Center for an upcoming trip to the United States revealed US$16 tickets through Groupon, instead of the regular price of US24.95 – a 36% discount. Not to be sneezed at, especially at the current USD/AUD exchange rate. According to travel website Wotif.com, the USA is the most popular destination for Australians to visit in 2016 despite the exchange rate, so if you’re one of many Aussies about to jet across the Pacific, make sure you get the best deal possible using promo codes wherever you can. Of course, this tip applies to any destination in the world, so start Googling for deals! Another tip is to grab a few copies of the local city guide available at airports on arrival, as they may contain discounted coupons to major attractions.
Hotel loyalty programs
If you’re not a member of the hotel loyalty program of the hotel you’re staying at –even if it’s just one night - it’s worth taking a few minutes to sign up as membership can give you access to facilities and services you would normally have to pay for as a non-member. Membership may entitle you to free Wi-Fi in your room (which can cost in excess of $10 per day), late check-out, complimentary newspapers and water bottles every day, access to hotel lounges and other little benefits. Most importantly, it could increase your chances of receiving an upgrade. Another benefit of joining a hotel loyalty program is additional discounts you may receive on car hire. More on car hire, below.
When hiring a car, always make the most of any memberships you are affiliated with, whether it’s a motoring association, your credit card provider, a frequent flyer program or a hotel loyalty program. It’s also worth doing a quick search on the Internet for coupon or promotion codes that may reduce the daily rate or include a free upgrade. For example, do a search using the term ‘Avis promotion code 2016’ or words to that effect. Before going ahead with the booking, hop onto car hire comparison sites such as webcarhire.com or rentalcars.com to make sure there aren’t better deals on offer. If you’re going on holidays during peak season, book the car months in advance – if you’re able to - as the rates will increase as you get closer to your departure date.
Check if your credit card provider is offering any travel deals. For example, if you are an American Express (AMEX) cardholder, sign into your account and click on ‘Offers & Places’ for current deals. An example of a recent deal was a Hilton portfolio of hotels and resorts booking – spend $250 or more and receive $50 back. Deals may vary from member to member, so if your partner also has an AMEX card, get them to do the same and check what deals are on offer. Click here for Visa deals and here for current Mastercard promotions. Once you're on the Mastercard website, click on the 'Priceless Cities' link for exclusive deals in your favourite city.